Desktop Speaker Debate

I love my 13″ Macbook Pro, but I don’t like the sound that comes out of the weak speakers. So that puts me in the market for some new speakers to go on my desktop, because I’m not quite ready to drop nearly R10 000 ($1500) on the 27″ Apple Cinema Display.

I found a few sets of speakers that I thought would be good candidates. They are all pretty different so ultimately each person will need to hear the speaker sets to know what they want. That’s what the Bose guy from Joburg said at least (good advice).

Unfortunately everything in South Africa tends to be twice as expensive as it is in the States. So what I have done is put the US retail price, then the South African retail price. Both prices do not include discounts or specials. I have also included what the South African price is in US Dollars in brackets, this is to illustrate the premium you pay for purchasing on South African soil. I have also not included any postage and packaging costs to keep things more even. Finding a supplier can also be hard for the niche products, so actually getting a local price might be impossible and might impact any choice.

This is what I came up with:

Bose Companion 2 multimedia speaker system

Price Point: US – $99.95 / SA – R1400 [~$205USD]
Product URL:
Views: These Bose speakers are the cheapest of the lot, and I think they will most definitely look good next to my Cinema Display and sound much better than my Macbook Pro speakers. Tick and Tick. However at this early stage in the writeup bleakness is setting in as the trend with Bose products is the price tends to be more than double than it is in the states. Uncool.

Bose Companion 2 multimedia speaker system

Bose Companion 2. The budget Bose Speaker, the cheapest of the speakers so far

Bose® Computer MusicMonitor®

Product link:
Price Point: US – $399 / SA – R5500 [~$806USD]
Views: So the Bose Computer MusicMonitor (CMM for short) apparently compete with the Bose Companion 3 which has a Sub Woofer. They are geared towards being able to carry really great speakers around and do a presentation with where the sound is more like big desktop speakers. So the extra cost is justified in all the research in cramming in two satellite speakers and a sub woofer worth of sound into two tiny speakers.

Bose Computer MusicMonitor

Bose Computer MusicMonitor, more expensive than the Companions, but sound like they have 2 satellite speakers and a sub woofer crammed in there

Bose® Companion® 3 multimedia speaker system

Product link:
Price Point: US – $249 / SA – R3500 [~$513USD]
Views: So these basically do the same thing at the Bose MusicMonitors, but are not portable (not a requirement for me) and cost less.

Bose Companion 3 multimedia speaker system

Bose Companion 3 multimedia speaker system, satellites and a sub.

Harman/Kardon SoundSticks® II

Product link:
Price Point: US – $209 / SA – R2499 [~$366USD]
Views: These speakers will definitely stand out on the desk rather than blend in with an Apple Cinema display. That might be a good thing. I’m not sure of the sound quality, but I’m guessing the 2.1 configuration is good. and coming in at the second cheapest of the group, definitely a great contender given you get a sub woofer.

Harman Kardon - Soundsticks II Speaker System

Harman Kardon – Soundsticks II Speaker System. 2.1 Configuration, awesome aesthetic

Bowers & Wilkins MM-1 Speakers

Product link:
Price Point: US – $499.95 / SA – R3990 [~$585USD]
Views: These speakers seem pretty interesting. They have the ability to bypass computer audio, and connect via USB to stream the music file as RAW data. The the speaker then converts the audio file into the “high fidelity” audio. This is a pretty good feature, as the 13″ Macbook Pro produces a slight hiss when playing music through the audio jack (this is a known and common problem with Macbook Pro’s). These speakers are expensive, but they look incredible and I imagine the square up against the Bose Music Monitors very well and they are R1500 cheaper.

Bowers and Wilkins MM-1 Speakers

Bowers and Wilkins MM-1 Speakers – Full Size Speaker quality, squeezed into a tiny enclosure. They even have pictures next to a Macbook Pro and Cinema Display

Final thoughts

My main concern is how much of a premium South Africans have to pay to be a proud owner of Bose equipment.
There is 0% import duty on computer products when importing into South Africa, and it’s not like Bose products are heavily marketed in the country, so I fail to see how retailers in South Africa are charging double the US retail price.

From an aesthetic point of view, I am a serious fan of the simplistic and minimalist design of the Bose and B&W small speakers, and generally not a fan of 2.1 systems due to all the extra cables.

From a price point of view, it’s a serious toss up between the R1400 Bose and R2499 Harman/Kardon SoundSticks.

As a last disclaimer, I acknowledge that comparing these products is probably not that fair, but this is what is appealing to me as options to put on my desk.

What do you think?

As a bit of fun, why not say what you would buy, and if you have a better suggestion, let me know in the comments.


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About Nicholas

I love helping people and solving problems. I am currently working on:
A Cape Town Fibre ISP – Atomic Access
Borderless Blockchain Mobile Network Operator – World Mobile
From England and currently living in Cape Town, South Africa.
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